Scientists have developed a gadget that can “see” through the human body, helping doctors mark the status and progress of implanted medical devices.
In a ground-breaking technological step expected to revolutionise the world of tissue imaging, medical diagnosis and automated surgical procedures, the Proteus Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration team has developed a camera that can produce images of medical equipment placed within the body.
The team of scientists from Scotland say the camera is expected to help doctors track medical equipment, such as an endoscope, during internal exams.
According to the researchers, difficulty in tracking implanted devices is an issue that has previously been complicated by costly scans like X-rays.
Researchers with the team have developed the technology as part of an ongoing study into the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases.
The technology is so precise and sensitive that it can detect the tiny traces of light that pass through the body’s tissue from the light emitted by the endoscope.
It can also record the time taken for light to pass through the body, allowing the device to also detect the scattered light.
The camera detects sources of light in the body, and allows medical professionals to see the equipment’s location.
In the case of the endoscope, the camera can detect the equipment’s illuminated end.
A prototype of the new device has successfully tracked pointed light through 20 centimetres of tissue, according to the Proteus team.
“Such an advancement is crucial to developing the medical technology around minimally invasive procedures,” University of Edinburgh scientist and team member Kev Dhaliwal said in a statement.
He said the innovation had the potential for wide use within the field of medical diagnosis and surgery.
“It has immense potential for diverse applications such as the one described in this work,” Prof Dhaliwal said.
The camera works by making use of the behaviour of light as it strikes body tissues and organs.
Typically, light bounces off body tissue rather than travelling straight through, making a blurred image.
Scientists have reported that the camera can detect individual particles of light, called photons, and record the time it takes for light to pass through the body.
The camera takes advantage of advanced technology that can detect light photons.
In developing the device, experts have integrated thousands of single photon detectors onto a silicon chip, similar to that found in a digital camera.
By taking into account both the scattered light and the light that travels straight to the camera, the device is able to work out exactly where the endoscope is located in the body.